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Old Testament

The Pentateuch

Why did God change Jacob’s name to Israel?

The name Israel means, “The one who strives with God,” or “God strives.” God changed Jacob’s name to mark a turning point. It was as if Jacob had been in training up to this point. Now, with the new name, he had to get down to the business of being a patriarch.

The second time Jacob’s name was changed happened after Dinah was raped. God told Jacob to take his family and settle in Bethel. Once there, “God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddanaram, and he blessed him. God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ So he was called Israel. God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after.’” (NRSV, Genesis 35:9–13)



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